The Digital Transformation of Executive Search: Interview with Yanouk Poirier of Leaders International

“Acquiring the right talent is no longer dependent on a relationship with that talent – but rather about leveraging technology to implement in-depth research on a candidate to determine whether they have the right skillsets and align with a company’s values and overall goals.”

Interview with Yanouk Poirier, Partner at Leaders International on the digital transformation of executive search. We discuss key challenges and opportunities in executive talent acquisition, leadership development, and the growing influence of learning experience platforms.

1. How have you seen the recruitment space evolve and transform over the last few years? What have been the biggest changes when it comes to acquiring the right talent to compete with?

We are in a new digital era, and that means that disruptive initiatives are impacting every sector across the world. The digital transformation of an industry brings with it profound change in an organization. As a result, companies are now in need of finding leaders that have new skill sets. This also means that in a highly competitive marketplace organization need to offer unique selling proposals to potential candidates.

Acquiring the right talent is no longer dependent on a relationship with that talent – but rather about leveraging technology to implement in-depth research on a candidate to determine whether they have the right skillsets and align with a company’s values and overall goals. Ultimately, a candidate must be the right overall FIT for a role.

2. What are your clients telling you? What are the biggest challenges with talent acquisition at the senior level today?

In my experience at Leaders International Executive Search, finding the right talent is all about accuracy and fit. I always ask myself, are we able to find the right person who has the right skillset, but who will also be suitable for our client’s corporate culture? The companies that we work with want to be sure that we turn over every rock in our exhaustive executive search process – in addition to a more rigorous research process, they are also expecting greater transparency and more frequent communication. They want us to be able to execute a search through the lens of a very thorough understanding of their business model while looking at the organizational charts and activities of their competitors and comparators.

In terms of our top talent acquisition challenges at the senior level, finding the right leadership ‘gem’ is always going to be challenging, but now even more so, thanks to the digital revolution, we are facing a shortage of talent in many new sectors. Compensation in a mature market is also a huge deciding factor when we are working with our clients to acquire top level employees.

3. Leadership development continues to be a significant challenge for companies, and the transition to the new digital organization creates even larger leadership gaps. What would be your top tips to a CHRO building out a strategy to acquire, develop and retain leaders in the digital world?

Businesses at the forefront of digital change are facing numerous challenges and must act very quickly to find innovative leaders capable of delivering effective solutions to their new business challenges .

Moreover, we can also see an important leadership style transition. In the past leaders primarily implemented one leadership style, usually, that would be authority leadership or performance leadership. In the new digital world we live in, we are now at the point where leaders need to adopt multiple leadership styles to be effective. To create value, leaders should be able to: have a disruptive vision, be able to delegate authority, experiment with new company cultures (like working remotely and flex hours), and at the same time, they have to have a client-centric approach to execution. I personally believe that if organizations want to transition to a new leadership style, they will drift towards another style of leadership according to leaders’ talent, experiences and own development. Leaders rarely depend on a single leadership style – and today they must be open to adapt according to changing circumstances.

When developing a leadership acquisition plan, I always ask a company if they have a full grasp of the competencies needed to create a new digital version of their organization. Has the organization created space to acquire and develop those competencies? When it comes to leadership, having a long-term vision, the ability to drive growth, and forethinking to identify new revenue streams while embracing emerging technologies to transform existing business models are going to be essential leadership qualities.

4. Let’s talk about onboarding. We know that a strategic approach to onboarding at senior levels can really impact retention and productivity. What opportunities are large enterprises missing with onboarding today?

Absolutely, stats show that approximately 40% of talent at the leadership level stays in their role for as little as 18 months. This could be due to an incomprehensive onboarding strategy.

After an executive has accepted a position, it is vitally important to provide them with a clear look at the expectations and deliverables they’re expected to hit within the first 90 days of their role. This means providing new hires with a strong integration plan.

I believe that the integration phase is crucial to both executive performance and corporate success. I would also add that organizations should allow more time during the onboarding process for the new hire to more deeply understand the company, its business model, the culture, and create opportunities for them to really get to know its key players.

5. How have you seen the HR leadership’s attitude toward HRTech – the use of technology to enable, scale and optimize HR business outcomes – evolve? How can HR leaders of mid-size companies build a business case for investing in technology to execute HR strategies such as recruitment and onboarding?

HR technologies are becoming much more user-friendly and business-centric, enabling more and more HR leads to test and implement them. In the end, HR tech must ladder up to ROI, and HR consultants will need to convince their boards and executives that a database of technology is useful and an essential element for decision-making if they are going to be successful. We are now in a space where we understand that the use and translation of data brings important business outcomes, especially when it comes to talent.

6. Fintech is changing the Finance industry, MarTech is changing the marketing industry and so on – what are your tips to senior leaders to stay relevant in this rapidly evolving industry? What skillset and mind-set changes do you think will help them find the right opportunities in these dynamic industries?

It’s incredibly important to be aware of new technology and embrace innovation happening while staying alert to what competitors are implementing. Organizational leaders need to be open for change and creative thinking, promote continuous learning and invest wisely in technology. My advice would be to create a small think thank incubator for A.I and technology, which might open up new business opportunities.

What is the impact you are seeing, in practice, of technologies such as Mobile, AI, blockchain, and machine learning – on HR practices, especially at the executive and board levels?

Technologies such as mobile, AI, blockchain and machine learning are being used in HR primarily to improve communication and efficiency. Boards and executives are using more and more data for important decision-making, such as employee training and succession planning. Eventually, technologies like these may reduce the human power needed, but they will also bring new skills to the HR industry.

7. What technologies and trends are you tracking in talent acquisition as we head into 2020?

HR professionals are all looking to optimize productivity, alignment & engagement of their teams, but also towards improving their brand’s image and delivering overall customer satisfaction.

I believe that learning experience platforms are growing rapidly as the recruiting market evolves. To meet this fundamental need for human capital and competitive intelligence, Leaders International Executive Search offers the Leaders Report®, which is a distinctive, highly structured, and in-depth research approach that leverages technology to provide exclusive, comprehensive, current, relevant, and validated data on potential candidates. We really are at the beginning of a new world of talent acquisition with the intelligent and strategic sourcing options now available in the executive space.

HRT: Thank you for those in-depth insights into the digital transformation of executive search, Yanouk. We hope to speak with you again, soon!

About Yanouk Poirier, B.A., MBA

As a Partner at Leaders International, Mr. Poirier brings his entrepreneurial expertise, multifaceted profile, and talent for communication to help national and international business leaders to achieve their business strategies. He is also Global Practice Leader for the Technology, Media & Telecoms (TMT) group for Leaders International’s global network, Penrhyn International. Mr. Poirier has over 20 years of professional experience in different sectors of economic activity, such as professional services, finance, media, and information technology. He has successfully led numerous assignments of top-level executives and board members, for major international companies and renowned firms.

About Leaders International:

Leaders International combines the extensive experience of Davies Park Executive Search (est. 1989), Higgins Executive Search (est. 1999), and Leaders International (est. 2008). In 2018, these three firms came together to form one of the leading, most innovative and trusted executive search firms in Canada.

Our leadership team is represented across our offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver. This breadth of scope ensures that each client receives senior-level expertise and access to top-level candidates across the country. Furthermore, in addition to our national presence, we have also built strong, successful alliances with international partners to give us access to superior candidates on a global scale. For more information please visit


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